Smaller communities that have not yet fluoridated their water supplies will soon find it easier to apply for an exemption, the Newman government has confirmed.
Shortly after Anna Bligh became Queensland premier in 2007, she announced a fluoride rollout in a bid to improve dental health and reduce tooth decay.
The Water Fluoridation Act 2008 required water suppliers to add fluoride to any public potable water supply that provided water to at least 1000 people.
A regulation introduced in the same year set the timeframes for the rollout, with southeast Queensland one of the first cabs off the rank in 2008 and 2009.
The new Liberal National Party government today confirmed it would make amendments to the existing legislation later this year to provide additional ground for exemption to the fluoridation requirement.
Some small communities that had not yet practically implemented water fluoridation would have an opportunity to apply for an exemption.
Health Minister Lawrence Springborg said very small councils would have to demonstrate fluoridation was not affordable for them.
“The fact is the maximum area that could be covered by fluoridation in Queensland is 91 per cent and now 87 per cent of this has been achieved,” Mr Springborg said.
“The 4 per cent remaining is not obtainable without massive challenges, challenges for those smaller communities that have been identified to this and the previous government.”
The Bligh government-era legislation allows a water supplier to apply for an exemption from the fluoride requirement on any of the following grounds:
- the water supply contains naturally occurring fluoride at an average concentration that is within the minimum and maximum concentrations prescribed by regulation or above that maximum concentration;
- because of the natural water chemistry of the water supply, fluoride cannot be maintained at an average concentration that is within the minimum and maximum concentrations prescribed by regulation;
- the addition of fluoride to the water supply is unlikely to result in a substantial ongoing oral health benefit to the community, or part of the community, of the area serviced by the water supply, and the number of members of the public who consume water from the water supply is less than 1000.
The exact wording of the Newman government’s amendments is not yet known, but Mr Springborg indicated an exemption based on affordability would be introduced.
This would involve the ongoing costs of fluoridation, as opposed to the initial capital costs.
Mr Springborg said councils that wished to push ahead with fluoridation would still be able to claim up to 100 per cent of eligible capital costs for installation.
“There is capital assistance for infrastructure through the Queensland Fluoridation Capital Assistance Program and this is expected to continue through to June 30, 2014,” he said.
The government said councils that had already been funded to provide fluoridation would be required to continue their fluoridated supply and larger councils that had not yet begun to fluoridate their water would still be required to do so under the legislation.
“Bundaberg is an example of a larger council that will have to proceed with implementing fluoridation,” Mr Springborg said.
According to the existing regulation, water treatment plants that must be fluoridated by the end of this year include Aurukun Water Treatment Plant, St George Surface Water Treatment Plant, Biloela Water Treatment Plant, Moura Water Treatment Plant, Acacia St Bore and Pomona St Bore, Branyan Water Treatment Plant.
The December 2012 list also includes numerous sites in the Bundaberg Region, several sites in Burdekin Shire, Normanton Water Treatment Plant, Cardwell Water Treatment Plant, Innisfail Water Treatment Plant, Tully Water Treatment Plant, several other Cassowary Coast Region sites, FEJ Butcher Water Treatment Plant in the Charters Towers Region, Cloncurry Water Treatment Plant, Annan River Water Treatment Plant in Cook Shire and several Hughenden bores in Flinders Shire.
The list also includes Clermont Water Treatment Plant, Dysart Water Treatment Plant, Glenden Water Treatment Plant, Middlemount Water Treatment Plant, Marian Water Treatment Plant in Mackay Region, Roma Bores, Mount Isa Water Treatment Plant, Cunnamulla Water Treatment Plant, Atherton Water Treatment Plant, Mareeba Water Treatment Plant, Millmerran Water Treatment Plant and several other Toowoomba Region sites, Airlie/Cannonvale Beaches Water Treatment Plant, Bowen Bores, Collinsville Water Treatment Plant, Proserpine River to Bowen Water Treatment Plant and Proserpine Water Treatment Plant.